Explosion W vs King Edward: who is the best showjumping horse in the world? Data experts reveal all

  • Who is the best showjumping horse in the world right now? Who is the best showjumping horse of all time? These are the questions we often ask ourselves while watching the likes of Ben Maher’s Explosion W jumping against Henrik von Eckermann’s King Edward or Daniel Deusser’s Killer Queen VDM week after week on the five-star circuit. Obviously whoever jumps fastest and clear is the winner on the day, but who ranked as the best showjumping horse in the world overall in 2021?

    Fortunately our friends at the equestrian data analytics company Equiratings have once again come up trumps with their number crunching and produced the CAS – Clears Against Standard – metric system, a new way to evaluate and compare the best horses in the world statistically.

    “This feels like a watershed moment in the sport,” says the company’s co-founder Diarm Byrne on the Equiratings Jumping Podcast.

    “It [CAS] is a different way of looking at the sport, but it’s heavily researched and it’s backed up by data science,” he stresses.

    CAS is the number of clears a horse has jumped against the number of clears that should have been jumped – the “standard” – over those courses.

    “If you’ve jumped 20 times and the average clear rate [in a class] was 25%, you should have produced five clears” explains co-host Sam Watson.

    So someone who jumped eight clears would have a CAS value of +3 – three more clears than that standard of five clears. Of course, for horses that jump fewer clears than the standard, the number will be negative.

    The metric can be applied to any level, but the Equiratings team are focusing on 1.60m-plus tracks at five-star shows over the course of a year. They take out jump-off rounds, however, where the theory changes.

    So in 2021, 25 horses produced the highest CAS value range of three or more.

    Scott Brash’s Hello Jefferson, for example, jumped at the top level 22 times in 2021 and produced 11 clears – a 50% clear rate – whereas the courses he jumped had a clear rate of 30%, giving him a CAS value of 3.8.

    Martin Fuchs’ Geneva grand prix winner Leone Jei jumped a bit less in 2021 – 15 times – but was clear on nine occasions. That’s a clear rate of 60%, but the courses he jumped were slightly harder with a clear rate of only 27%, giving him a higher CAS value of 4.6.

    “That’s a really strong number – only 25 horses in the world last year had a value of three or higher,” says Sam Watson. “It’s a clean, crisp metric.”

    He adds, of course, that: “The opinion will always be there, the theories will always be there.”

    And the best showjumping horse in the world is…

    So who came out top in the CAS ratings for 2021? King Edward and Explosion W seemed to make all the headlines over the past 12 months, but who was most effective at jumping clear rounds?

    Explosion W was the top British horse with his phenomenal clear round strike rate – in 2021 he produced 10 clears from 17 rounds producing an astonishingly high CAS value of 5.5, only good enough for seventh in the standings however. The runaway winner on the stats was Olympic bronze medal-winning King Edward. He jumped 18 clears over 25 rounds, with an astonishingly high clear rate of 72% and a CAS of 11.5.

    “This horse was head and shoulders above the rest if you’re talking about clear round efficiency at the top level of the sport,” says Sam. “King Edward is in a league of his own and it’s world class – as good as we’ve seen from some of the biggest names in this sport in the last decade.”

    Here are the overall standings for 2021:

    CAS values for showjumping horses jumping 1.60m-plus in 2021

    1. King Edward (Henrik von Eckermann, SWE) 11.5
    2. H&M Indiana (Malin Baryard Johnsson, SWE) 7.6
    3. Beauville Z (Maikel van der Vleuten, NED) 7.5
    4. Quel Homme De Hus (Jerome Guery, BEL) 7.4
    5. Killer Queen VDL (Daniel Deusser, GER) 7
    6.  VDL Cartello (Darragh Kenny, IRL) 5.8
    7. Explosion W (Ben Maher, GBR) 5.5

    Who are the best showjumping horses in the world over the past decade?

    King Edward also ranks highly among the figures which Equiratings have worked out back to 2010 – only six horses have produced a CAS of 10 or more and Eric Lamaze’s outstanding partner Hickstead comes out top as the greatest showjumping horse of the past 12 years by the smallest fraction of decimals. Big Star’s remarkable 86% clear round strike rate in 2013 puts him third and the best of the British showjumpers.

    Explosion W’s highest CAS value of 9.2 was achieved in 2019, leaving him just off the top five. However, he holds the highest Elo ranking on the Equiratings database of 898.

    “That tells us his consistency at beating the best opposition in the world is the most effective – that’s what he’s brilliant at,” says Sam.

    The top five showjumping horses in the world over the past 12 years are:

    Top CAS values for the best showjumping horses in the world jumping 1.60m-plus since 2010

    1. Hickstead, Eric Lamaze (in 2010) 12.6
    2. Casall ASK, Rolf-Goran Bengtsson (in 2014) 12.6
    3. Big Star, Nick Skelton (2013) 12
    4. King Edward, Henrik von Eckermann (2021) 11.5
    5. Cedric, Laura Kraut (2010) 10.6

    So as you can see, King Edward is already holding his own with the best of all time.

    “It’s why we can get excited about King Edward,” says Sam.

    Of course, evaluating the best showjumping horse in the world like this is highly objective, but do you agree with the stats? Was King Edward the best showjumper in 2021? How can Explosion W, who won the Olympic gold medal, not be described as the best showjumping horse in the world? It’s one we could discuss for hours…

    • Let us know your thoughts by emailing them to hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and county and you may be published in a future issue of Horse & Hound magazine – you could also win a bottle of Champagne Taittinger

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